MPANewsBook: Statehouse News for MPA Members
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Headline: Campaign spending hits record levels. [Entered: 10/16/2012]
Campaign finance disclosure reports filed Monday, Oct. 15, with the Missouri Ethics Commission showed record levels of funding for gubernatorial candidates.
Democrat Jay Nixon and Republican Dave Spence reported, collectively, getting more than $21 million so far in their campaigns for governor.
Four years earlier, in 2008, the two leading candidates for governor reported just over $13 million in contributions.
The reports cover the election cycle until Oct. 1.
For the remaining five weeks, Nixon enjoys a substantial advantage in cash on hand left to spend with $4.9 million compared to Spence’s $1.5 million.
* Get MDN’s database of campaign contributions [http://www.mdn.org/2012/elect/contrib.htm]
Headline: Mo. Department of Social Services: no TANF drug tests to date [Entered: 10/17/2012]
By Wes Duplantier and Brendan Cullerton
The Missouri Department of Social Services said Wednesday that it has not drug-tested a single person receiving state welfare benefits, more than a year after lawmakers voted to allow the testing of some recipients.
The department’s spokeswoman, Rebecca L. Woelfel, said no drug tests have been administered to applicants or recipients of the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program because the department is still formulating rules to implement the drug testing law, which Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon signed in July 2011.
“So the drug testing won’t begin until it’s approved, the rule is approved,” Woelfel said at the department’s Jefferson City offices.
“So no drug testing at all has happened so far?” Missouri Digital News asked.
“Yeah, it still hasn’t taken place,” she said. “We’re still kind of in the stages. We have to get the rule approved before the drug testing can begin.”
Under the 2011 law, the department is to give a urine test to a welfare applicant or recipient if it has “reasonable cause” to believe that person is using illegal drugs. If a person tests positive, the law provides that they are to lose their benefits for three years. A person who tests positive but enters a rehabilitation program could have their benefits restored more quickly.
In June of this year, the department proposed six rules related to law. Those rules were published in the Aug. 1 edition of the Missouri Register, a public record of rules and executive orders put out monthly by the Secretary of State’s office.
In September, Missouri Digital News filed a legal request under the state’s open records law to obtain records of the number of drug tests purchased and administered by the department and of communication between department Interim Director Brian Kinkade and department staff who would implement the law.
In a Sept. 20 email to MDN, the department’s custodian of records, attorney Scotty L. Allen, estimated that it would take the department two to four weeks to provide the requested records.
In a phone conversation on Oct. 10, Allen said he did have some of the records and that he would deliver those documents to MDN and to The Associated Press by Oct. 12.
But Allen never delivered the promised documents to either news outlet. He has not returned repeated phone messages left by Missouri Digital News since Oct. 10.
An MDN reporter went to Allen’s Jefferson City office Wednesday, Oct. 17, and waited for more than two hours to see the state attorney in person and get the requested records. Allen did not come to see the reporter and his staff said that he was in meetings throughout the afternoon. Late in the afternoon, Woelfel came to Allen’s office to talk to the reporter.
* Get the print story [http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/DRUGTEST.HTM]
* Get the bill, HB 73 [ http://www.mdn.org/cgi-bin/bills/billhttp.exe?FORM=HB&NUMs&YEAR 11 ]
Headline: Missouri lawmakers looking at failed Georgia tax plan for transportation funding [Entered: 10/18/2012]
By Lauren Bale
The Joint Committee on Transportation met Thursday, Oct. 18, to discuss a new option to provide funds for Missouri’s aging highways.
The Missouri Department of Transportation has requested between $2 and $4 billion in funding to fix Interstate 70, which department director Kevin Keith said in January would become a “gravel parking lot” if not repaired.
The committee met to analyze a Georgia tax plan that would have appropriated funds for the state’s own transportation system by implementing a 1 percent sales tax on food and over-the-counter medicine. Georgia voters rejected the tax plan and it was never implemented in the state.
At Thursday’s committee meeting Keith said a similar tax plan to Georgia’s proposal could generate $750 million in revenue for Missouri. However, this amount still falls far short of the multi-billion request from the transportation department.
MoDOT’s Outreach Coordinator Bob Brendel said the department’s funding has drastically decreased over the past few years, leaving new construction projects out of the question.
“At the level we’re funded at right now we’re in virtually a maintenance only mode,” Brendel said.
The tax plan is not the first idea the Committee has discussed.
Lawmakers have previously discussed increasing Missouri’s gasoline sales tax and making I-70 a toll road as a way to provide funding for infrastructure repairs. Legislators have also flirted with the idea of asking voters to approve issuing bonds to fund the repair.
* Get the print story [http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/GEORGIA.HTM]
Headline: St. Louis Public Schools gain provisional accreditation. [Entered: 10/16/2012]
By Alexander Mallin
The state education board voted unanimously to grant St. Louis City schools provisional accreditation at its board meeting Tuesday, Oct. 16.
The district lost accreditation in 2007, and a state board took control of the school district
Last year the district met seven out of 14 academic standards set by the board, one more than necessary for provisional accreditation.
“This is a moment for celebration,” said education Commissioner Chris Nicastro. “A brief, realistic moment for celebration while we applaud the efforts of the entire St. Louis Public Schools community on significant progress. We urge everyone to keep working.”
Education board president Peter Herschend said it could be at least two years of additional data demonstrating the district’s improvement before he would support giving the district full accreditation.
State education board member Mike Jones of St. Louis also said the process of transitioning power from the state board to the elected school board could be problematic.
“Everybody who was involved in the governance process of St. Louis for the 10 years prior to the transitional school board should never be allowed near a school or a child again in life,” Jones said.
Carnahan High School Senior Daezon Cummings said faculty involvement played a substantial role in the academic turnaround.
“It was big,” Cummings said. “I had just been hearing about it for weeks and weeks. Just constantly talking with them about it and just to hear how much that it mattered to them for that to happen it was just taking a monkey off our back pretty much.”
Nicastro said this is only the beginning of a long journey for the struggling district. Despite this turnaround, the district is still one of the worst performing academically in the state.
“No one would ever suggest provisional accreditation is the end goal,” Nicastro said. “We all want and believe that the children of the St. Louis Public Schools deserve a district that is fully accredited.”
The education board’s decision also throws into question a series of lawsuits dealing with students attempting to flee the St. Louis City schools. State law, backed by a 2010 Missouri Supreme Court decision, allows a student living in an unaccredited district to transfer to an accredited school in a neighboring county.
But, not one student from the St. Louis Public School district has been enrolled in another public school in St. Louis County due to ongoing litigation and conflicting court decisions. Nanci Gonder, a spokeswoman for Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, said the courts could still rule on the transfer issue if the ruling could have an impact on other students.
The Kansas City and Riverview Gardens school districts are currently unaccredited and Normandy is slated to lose its accreditation Jan. 1.
St. Louis Public Schools will be reevaluated in September 2013 under a new set of academic standards.
Headline: Missouri House employees saw more pay raises than other state workers. [Entered: 10/19/2012]
By Jordan Shapiro
Employees of the Missouri House of Representatives received three pay raises in one year, according to a report by the Jefferson City News Tribune.
House employees received two “House-only” pay increases in addition to a 2 percent raise given to all state workers making less than $70,000 annually starting July 1, the beginning of the state’s fiscal year.
The Chief Clerk of the House D. Adam Crumbliss told the News Tribune that he had put together a pay raise plan for House workers last year, which was approved by then-Speaker Steve Tilley.
The first House raises came in mid-November 2011 after the elimination of six staff positions. Tilley then approved a second set of raises just before he resigned as House Speaker to become a lobbyist.
Other state employees have not been as lucky. The fiscal 2013 budget was the first time in five years lawmakers included a pay raise for certain state workers (those making less than $70,000 a year). Other state employees may have received pay increases during that time to go along with increased workloads due to staff cuts.
Senate Administrator Jim Howerton told the News Tribune that Senate staff did not have any large scale pay increases beyond what the state already had in place.
The House pay increases combined with staff reductions do result in $42,459 in net savings.
Headline: Missouri Republican Party demands Susan Montee’s tax returns [Entered: 10/18/2012]
By Taylor Beck
The Missouri Republican Party is demanding that Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Susan Montee release her tax returns.
The GOP has asked to see the tax returns in light of a federal indictment of a license fee office employee in St. Joseph. The office is run by the candidate’s ex-husband James Montee.
The Missouri GOP said it is curious if Susan Montee benefited financially through the scandal.
“We would be very interested to see if any of this money ended up making its way somehow into Susan Montee’s pocket,” said Missouri GOP communications director Jonathon Prouty.
Susan Montee’s communications director, John Knoll, said her statement is the same as it was in 2010 when the same issue was raised during Montee’s unsuccessful re-election bid for state Auditor. That statement said the fee office bidding process is open and transparent, and as they divorced in 2007, they were no longer related when James Montee gained control of the fee office. The statement said Montee has issued a public financial disclosure report.
“She laughs at the Republican Party trying to get anyone to release tax returns,” Knoll said when asked if Montee would release her tax returns.
Prouty says he does not know if Montee’s opponent, Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, has released his tax returns. Kinder’s campaign refused to comment.
* Get the print story [http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/SMONTEE.HTM].
Headline: Democratic group sends mailers featuring Akin’s rape remark [Entered: 10/18/2012]
By Matthew Patane
American Bridge 21st Century, a Democratic super PAC, is mailing talking brochures across Missouri, which feature Republican U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin’s remarks on “legitimate rape.”
The mailers, which were set to hit mailboxes on Thursday, state “Todd Akin would like a few words with you” on the cover. When opened the brochures play sound bites of Akin discussing political issues such as rape, student loans and Medicare.
Matt Thornton, a spokesman for American Bridge, said the group spent about $37,000 on the mail campaign, which is focused toward independent women in rural Missouri counties. Thornton said he did not know exactly how many people would receive the mailers, but that intended recipients numbered in the “thousands.”
Since the comment, Akin has repeatedly said he misspoke during the interview and apologized for his comments.
Akin’s opponent, incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, has also been using Akin’s comments against him in a string of recent ads. Three ads released last week feature three women, all of whom say they are victims of sexual assault, discussing why they cannot vote for Akin because of his views on contraception and abortion.
McCaskill and Akin squared off at Clayton High School in St. Louis Thursday, Oct. 18, for their second debate. No other debates between the two U.S. Senate candidates are scheduled.
* Get a video of the talking mailer [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PhmqtaTSaR8&feature=player_embedded].
* Get MDN’s ad database to view ads from Akin and McCaskill [http://www.mdn.org/2012/ELECT/ADS.HTM].
Headline: Claire McCaskill serves up food and politics in Columbia [Entered: 10/16/2012]
By Lauren Bale and Jamie Ries
With the election less than three weeks away, incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill continues to face a close race against her Republican opponent St. Louis congressman Todd Akin.
McCaskill met with voters in Columbia Tuesday, Oct. 16, at Flat Branch Pub and Brewing, and while she refused to comment on Akin’s campaign tactics, she was willing to talk about his policies.
“Only rich kids will go to college under Akin’s world view because the government would have nothing to do with public education,” McCaskill said. “This is just a way that I can underline that policy difference and sear it into people’s brains and hopefully get a few votes.”
Akin’s press secretary, Ryan Hite, said via email “McCaskill’s economic policies have resulted in one in six Missourians living below the poverty line while McCaskill’s businesses receive $40 million in taxpayer money.”
People eating at the restaurant were divided between the two parties.
MU student Mitchell Perne said McCaskill already had his vote before the event.
“It is not every day the Senator waits your table,” Perne said.
Customer David Pickering said he is glad to see she is serving the public in a way other than over-taxing people.
“She needs to leave the private sector alone and get government out of the way so small business can prosper,” Pickering said.
According to Real Clear Politics, a poll aggregating website, most polls have McCaskill holding a slight lead over Akin.
* Get the print story [http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/SENATOR.HTM]
Headline: Spence files defamation lawsuit against Nixon [Entered: 10/15/2012]
By Jordan Shapiro
Republican gubernatorial nominee Dave Spence filed a defamation lawsuit in Cole County Circuit Court against Gov. Jay Nixon for calling him a “banker” in a television advertisement.
The lawsuit alleges that Nixon used misleading information in his ad to suggest Spence used his position at a bank and Troubled Asset Relief Program funds to purchase a vacation home.
“I filed this lawsuit for one simple reason, we need good people in politics,” Spence said in a written statement.
“You see a lot of crazy stunts during the course of a campaign, but this frivolous lawsuit is misguided and desperate,” said Nixon’s campaign manager Oren Shur to the Associated Press.
Spence served on the board of Reliance Bancshares Inc. beginning in May 2009 after the bank took $40 million in TARP funds from the U.S. Treasury. According to the Associated Press, Spence took out a $1.1 million loan for a vacation home the next year, but he said there was no connection between the two events.
* Get MDN’s ad database to view Nixon’s ad. [http://www.mdn.org/2012/ELECT/ADS.HTM]
Headline: Capitol Perspectives: Repair and Neglect of Missouri’s Capitol [Entered: 10/19/2012]
By: Phill Brooks
If you were to have approached the state Capitol from the northwest this summer or fall, you might first think that Missouri’s statehouse was being rebuilt.
It’s not a total rebuild, but a major repair and replacement of outside stone stairs, railings and a walkway on side of the building.
Behind this latest statehouse repair effort is a fascinating story of decades of neglect for the seat of Missouri’s government followed by frantic repair efforts.
This latest effort of restoration covers an area that had been crumbling for years. The neglect continued until it became a major safety hazard with the administration having to erect temporary barricades to prevent visitors walking into unsafe areas.
My first experience with Capitol neglect came from rain drops falling on the head of Gladys Marriott in 1973.
She was a member of the Missouri House at a time the Capitol’s roof suffered from terrible deterioration. It got so bad that one day during a rainstorm, water began dripping into the House chamber.
Marriott, a Kansas City Democrat, got steamed. She organized tours of reporters and legislators into what effectively is the Capitol’s attic. Her efforts personally pointing out the deterioration — and even the holes in roof — worked. Funds were approved to fix the roof, keeping House members dry.
Even when repair and refurbishment efforts are undertaken, the job is not always finished. For example, right now, the color scheme for the walls on the Capitol’s main floor is an uncompleted mishmash.
It’s the result of an ambitious plan to repaint the non-stone walls with a fancy and expensive scheme. But it turned out to be too expensive. The effort was abandoned when the state ran into financial trouble, leaving a partially-finished job on the main floor and a couple of pretty ugly splotches on the second floor near the rotunda.
Years ago, the state finally got around to replacing the near-rotting original window and door frames of the Capitol. But when you go through the doors leading to the visitors’ center, you’ll find the job never got finished.
Hearing stories that the administration was replacing the Capitol’s original windows and doors with fixtures from a foreign country, the lieutenant governor at the time, Bill Phelps, threw a fit.
As a member of the Board of Public Buildings that has jurisdiction over the Capitol, he immediately ordered the replacement stopped. Almost all the window frames got replaced. But not all the door frames. As a result, the statehouse has been stuck with mismatched window and door frames for the last few decades.
Meanwhile, the stone walls for which the Capitol is famous get treated like cafeteria bulletin boards with taped announcements and advertisements from a variety of non-government organizations. Former Senate President Pro Tem Jim Mathewson argued passionately for some sort of ban on defacing the building. His idea went nowhere.
As for the stonework on the northwest side of the building that was repaired this fall, that’s part of a problem that goes back decades. The stone came from a quarry near Carthage, Missouri.
When it came to getting stone for that side of the building, it was less than perfect stone. Coupled with facing the northwest, it’s been eroding and crumbling for years.
A few decades ago, some of that stone was replaced. But it generated a storm of protest from the Carthage area senator, Dick Webster. He objected that the administration was using stone from Illinois.
Webster argued it was not as good nor as attractive as the stone that could come from his part of the state. To prove the point to his office visitors, placed blocks of the two types of stone in bowls of water.
I still remember Webster passionately pointing out the differences to anyone who entered his office. It seemed like months before the Carthage senator gave up, but he did make his point. There was a difference. The Illinois stone absorbed more water and, as a result, had a stained appearance.
Of course, what Webster’s demonstration did not address was whether that Illinois stone could better withstand the winter freeze and thaw cycles that had helped crack up his beloved Carthage stone in the first place.
Today, besides weather, the outside of the building is facing another threat — skateboarders who break off small chips from the stone of the Capitol’s steps from their acrobatics.
Chipped stone, defaced inside walls, mismatched window frames, uncompleted paint jobs, rusting security barricades are among signs of neglect at Missouri’s statehouse.
Over the years, a few legislators have suggested creating a commission with an assured budget to watch over, maintain and protect Missouri’s historic Capitol.
Since 1867, the federal government has had an official Architect of the Capitol, selected by Congress with responsibility to maintain the U.S. Capitol. Missouri has no similar office.
[Phill Brooks has been a Missouri statehouse reporter since 1970, making him dean of the statehouse press corps. He is the statehouse correspondent for KMOX Radio, director of MDN and a faculty member of the Missouri School of Journalism. He has covered every governor since the late Warren Hearnes.
Past columns are available at http://www.mdn.org/mpacol.]